As the percentage of women in the U.S. workforce has risen in the last 50 years, so have the financial challenges they face. On average, women still make less than men, bear the brunt of family caregiving duties, and outlive men by more than five years. This means that there are definite life events that need to be planned for from a woman’s perspective.
Loss of family income. Whether working or staying at home to raise children, women will need to replace the income lost if they or their spouse die. There are years of future income to replace—and many expenses such as childcare, education, and other services that will need to be provided out of pocket. It’s crucial that mothers have adequate life insurance coverage for both themselves and their partner.
Maternity and family care leaves of absence. The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides for up to 12 job-protected weeks of leave for taking care of newborns or ailing family members in need of care. What the FMLA doesn’t provide, however, is paid leave. That can quickly add up to a major income shortfall. Women, especially those actively planning a family, may need to consider supplemental insurance to offset any lost income during these periods.
Assistance with nursing care. With women living longer and outliving their spouses on average, they’re more likely than men to need nursing assistance and/or medical care. Medicare helps to cover skilled nursing and rehabilitation costs to a maximum of 100 days—and does not cover the more prevalent non-skilled assistance associated with Activities of Daily living. Women should consult a financial advisor about different ways to help plan for longer and more comprehensive coverage of these expenses.
Outliving their retirement savings. Women should generally save more for retirement for all the reasons listed above. But when faced with gender disparity in pay, family leave employment gaps, and a tendency toward less aggressive savings and investment strategies, women have more challenges than men. All this makes it more critical for women to start saving and planning for retirement early on in their careers. And they’ll need to maximize their contributions and investment gains during their career, both to account for those times when they are out of the workforce due to family and to prepare for a longer life spent in retirement.